Outbreak of stomach illness reported on Queen Mary 2

Outbreak of stomach illness reported on Queen Mary 2

By Tom Stieghorst
Two environmental health officers and an epidemiologist from the federal Vessel Sanitation Program are expected to board the Queen Mary 2 when it docks in Brooklyn on Jan. 3 to assess an outbreak of illness on the ship.

About 7.5% of the passengers have been affected by an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness, according to reports to the VSP. The ship is on a 12-night Caribbean Fiesta holiday cruise that began Dec. 22.

No cause has been assigned to the outbreak. Norovirus is often to blame for gastrointestinal outbreaks on land and sea during the winter months.

Cunard Line will conduct staged disembarkation of active cases to minimize the chance of transmission to healthy passengers, according to the VSP website.

Embarkation for the next cruise to Southampton, England, will be delayed to provide extra time for disinfection and cleaning.

Royal Caribbean orders third Oasis ship from STX France

Royal Caribbean orders third Oasis ship from STX France

By Tom Stieghorst
Royal Caribbean finalized a long negotiation by ordering a third ship in the 5,400-passenger Oasis class from the STX France shipyard.

The ship will be the same size as the Oasis and Allure of the Seas, and is intended for delivery in mid-2016.

Royal Caribbean had been negotiating with STX Finland, but financial support from the Finnish government apparently could not be worked out.

Royal Caribbean did not divulge the cost of the new ship. It said its capital spending for the next few years would be $1.3 billion in 2012, $700 million in 2013, $1.2 billion in 2014, $1.2 billion in 2015 and $1.3 billion in 2016, when the third Oasis ship is scheduled to be delivered.

When Royal Caribbean confirmed in November that it was negotiating for a third Oasis-class vessel, it said the price per berth would be less than the original two ships.

Royal Caribbean has a one-year option to build a fourth Oasis-class ship from STX France.

The contract with STX France includes the transfer of Pullmantur’s Atlantic Star as part of the consideration.

Where Carnival Corp. saved more and spent more in 2012

Where Carnival Corp. saved more and spent more in 2012

By Tom Stieghorst

Carnival Corp., and Carnival Cruise Lines in particular, hang their hats on cost control. So it is instructive to take a look at where Carnival saved the most money in fiscal 2012.

InsightAccording to Carnival’s profit and loss statement issued last week, it saved $169 million on commissions, transportation and other costs.  That’s triple what it saved on tour operations ($50 million) and ten times what it saved on other shipping operations ($14 million).

Carnival paid $2.46 billion in commission and transportation in 2011, and $2.29 billion in 2012, a 6.9% decline.  Tour expenses fell 24.5%, to $154 million. Other shipping operations were flat, dropping 0.6%.

All other expenses rose, including payroll, up 1.1%; onboard expense, up 10.3%; and fuel, up 6.8%.  The biggest absolute increase in cost was for fuel, an additional $188 million.

It is always hard to sort out how much commission payments change from looking at the financial statements, because they are lumped in with air fares and other transportation costs. And looking at one year’s data, even if it is the most recent, doesn’t show a trend over time.

It may be worth noting, however, that the same expense line for commissions and transportation at the cruise industry’s other big publicly traded company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., shows a $10 million increase through the first nine months of 2012.

For travel agents, that’s a comparison that bears watching in the year ahead.